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by Nancy Grindle Correspondent · September 7th, 2017


A new exhibit will open at the Heritage Center and Museum on September 30, 2017. Its theme is "Good Roads: Bicycles, Motorcycles & Automobiles on the Transcontinental Routes, 1878-1919."

In a recent visit with Lynette Brenzel, Director of the Center and Museum, we had an opportunity to hear about some of the vehicles which will be on display during the course of the exhibit.

As Brenzel put it, "Long before it became part of the famous Lincoln Highway, the roadway loop through downtown Marion hosted scores of transcontinental automobile races, bicyclists and famous tourists. By foot, bicycle, motorcycle, automobile and truck, Marion witnessed and helped put our nation's first transcontinental road on the map.

"This exhibition tells the story of these travelers: their mishaps and adventures, their discoveries and endurance, from 1878 to 1919."

Among those loaning vehicles to the Heritage Center are "Marion friends and neighbors, Hall's Bicycle Company of Cedar Rapids, and the State Historical Society of Iowa."

One of those vehicles rested against a display case on the ground floor when we visited with Brenzel. It was a bicycle. Close inspection revealed that almost the entire bicycle is made from wood, even the wheels. There are some metal parts - the spokes and the points at which the rounded lengths join - but for the most part, it is made of wood. Amazingly, the handlebars were formed from wood and shaped to curve under on each side, just like bikes today.

Brenzel noted that this is a racing bicycle. It has a curved metal plate on the front vertical piece, giving the model name as a Linga and the manufacturer as being Franklin MacVeagh & Co.

Brenzel and her husband David and a group from Marion also journeyed to Des Moines just this Tuesday to pick up the first modern automobile west of the Mississippi River. It is on loan from the State Historical Society of Iowa.

This particular car was owned by H.G. "Billy" Haskell of Cedar Rapids and was a Locomobile.

Here, with Brenzel's permission, is her Facebook post about the Locomobile:

"'A miniature snowstorm' is how viewers described Haskell's Locomobile going down the street in the winter of 1899/1900. It was CR's first automobile.

"The 2-cylinder 4 HP steam engine didn't have a condenser, and a blizzard of tiny snowflakes followed it everywhere.

"Haskell purchased his auto in July 1899 after seeing it race Charlie Moore, 'one of the speediest bicyclists in the Tri-cities,' at the famous 1-Mile Track in Davenport. The owner was Baron Otto Von Schaezler; the driver, his brother-in-law, William Canniff. He won by a length.

"'The crowd went wild,' and Haskell bought the car on the spot. Canniff accompanied Haskell to DeWitt, giving him driving lessons before cutting him loose."

According to another part of Brenzel's post, an attorney and Marion mayor, J.C. (Jake) Davis also bought a Locomobile, the first in Linn County. The date of purchase, she said, was June 8, 1899, and it was noted that even the editor of the local paper played hooky to line up among "friends" for a ride.

Brenzel also said that Baron Von Schaezler "had achieved some fame in 1898 when he gave up his title and rights to the family castle near Munich for life in Iowa."

There's more to the story, but we will let you find it for yourself when you visit the Museum's Facebook page or the exhibit after it opens.

The exhibit will open at noon on Saturday, September 30, and Opening Day is free, thanks to the McIntyre Foundation.

Brenzel shared a number of other posts from the Heritage Center's Facebook page, and we encourage readers to go there to see and follow them and look for upcoming articles in the Marion Times.

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